The Pavilions at Britomart is a leafy paradise in the city – and Ortolana is nestled at its heart. The restaurant is shaped a little like a house, a lofty ceiling with a spectacular light installation that lends a golden glow. Inside, you recline on soft white cushions or gorgeous Italian wood, outside you are in the midst of the greenery at bustle of this section of Britomart, both are great options. It’s all day everyday, but it’s never that easy to get a table, so be warned.
Much of the produce on Ortolana’s menu comes directly from Hip Group’s own kitchen garden. I once ordered a watermelon and mint frappé and was told it was created using a champagne watermelon fresh from the garden, which was why it wasn’t bright pink. With every visit to this place, I learn something about the wonders of the seasons, which is part of the reason why a meal here feels new every time.
At Ortolana, I’ve eaten housemade mozzarella burrata on a bed of sesame with wedges of burnt fig that was indulgent and creamy, yet still vibrant. I’ve ordered a dish of porcini polenta with mushrooms and a poached egg which reminded me that nothing at Ortolana is ever dull, regardless of how it reads. I’ve made friends with a salad of beetroot, cumin, hazelnuts, feta and lasagnotte, with textures that were crisp and silky and crunchy, all at the same time.
Over the years, I’ve often heard chefs say that when you find beautiful produce, you don’t need to do much cooking, and Ortolana is the living embodiment of that statement. A meal here is always a treat, it’s also a subtle lesson in living life in the moment, and appreciating the goodness that moment brings.